A Couple of Vikings Made the ‘All-Underpaid Team’

Why Has the Vikings Pass Defense Faltered Lately?
Oct 9, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) and quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) warm up before the game against the Chicago Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has tried to build a cheaper roster, especially with less money tied to aging players. That is why the veterans Adam Thielen, Eric Kendricks, and Dalvin Cook are no longer with the organization. It is all part of the “competitive rebuild.” A duo of young Vikings and their contracts certainly make his job a lot easier.

A Couple of Vikings Made the ‘All-Underpaid Team’

All-Underpaid Team'
Sep 19, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Christian Darrisaw (71) prepares to block against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports.

Christian Darrisaw and Justin Jefferson both made Bleacher Report’s All-Underpaid Team. Brad Gagnon released the article on Friday. Having stars on rookie deals is the best way to build a good roster, but eventually, they will get paid, too.

The theoretical team is quarterbacked by Justin Herbert, who is throwing the ball to Jefferson and CeeDee Lamb. Gagnon wrote about the two: “Jefferson led the league in receptions and yards but is only the 67th-highest-paid receiver in the NFL, while Lamb ranks 61st despite putting up a second consecutive 1,100-plus-yard campaign in 2022. His fifth-year option kicks in next year, but watch for a massive new deal if he keeps rolling in ’23.”

Jefferson has the accolades to show to be in line to become the highest-paid receiver in the league. He was named Offensive Player of the Year after the 2022 campaign, was a finalist for MVP as the only non-QB, was a first-team All-Pro and led the league in receiving yards and receptions as the youngest player ever. His 4,825 receiving yards are the most of any player through his first three career seasons and the most of any player before turning 24.

Vikings Little Movie
Feb 9, 2023; Phoenix, Arizona, US; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson poses for a photo after receiving the award for AP Offensive Player during the NFL Honors award show at Symphony Hall. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Tyreek Hill is making an average salary of $30 million, and the young star is fully expected to top that number at some point in the summer. His rookie contract pays him roughly $13 million in the first four seasons. In 2024, Jefferson is scheduled to earn $19,743,000 after the Vikes picked up his fifth-year option.

Darrisaw is also on his rookie contract. He had a breakout season in 2022, but Gagnon saw a late-year decline: “Darrisaw still needs some time after fading late last season, and he missed some action due to a concussion as a sophomore in 2022. But for the first half of that campaign, he might have been the best left tackle in the NFL while ranking 60th at the position in terms of average annual salary.”

The injuries were indeed a problem. Suffering two separate concussions in one season is neither good for his on-field career nor his off-field life and could cause serious problems down the road. He has to make sure to keep his head out of the play to protect himself.

Revamp in Order
Ezra Cleveland and Christian Darrisaw

Regardless, Darrisaw was nothing short of sensational when he was on the field. Often left on an island, he has held his own and turned into one of the league’s elite tackles after having his first full offseason. It will be fun to see if he can make another jump in his third campaign.

Similar to Jefferson, Darrisaw is ensured to be compensated to his true value in a few years, and only injuries can derail that. When the two staples of the offense are getting paid, it would be wise for the Vikings to have a quarterback on a rookie deal to balance the salary cap.

The Vikings must find that passer, possibly in the 2024 draft. Kirk Cousins is in the final year of his contract and will be 36 when the 2024 season kicks off. His successor will come to town sooner rather than later, and the Vikes are urged to monitor the situations of the promising quarterbacks in college.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt